Marvel’s The Defenders follows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. A quartet of singular heroes with one common goal – to save New York City. This is the story of four solitary figures, burdened with their own personal challenges, who realize they just might be stronger when teamed together.
The Defenders is a Netflix miniseries set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), bringing together Matt Murdock aka Daredevil (Michael Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Danny Rand aka Iron Fist (Finn Jones) from their respective series to team up against a common enemy. This crossover series has been teased since before any of the Netflix series began, and has been slowly building with each new series. It’s here that we see the culmination of unresolved plot threads and the growth of seeds planted from these previous stories.
Right off the bat, I really appreciated how concisely put together this miniseries was. The usual 13-episode seasons leading up to this were by no means terrible, but each dragged at points, feeling a few episodes longer than they needed to be. This miniseries is a tight eight episodes long, noticeably better paced than most of what we’ve seen before. The slower moments feel natural, giving breaks between action without overstaying their welcome. Despite four protagonists coming together, none feel like they are given favouritism over the others either. Each have their own motivations to be there, inner conflicts, and moments to shine.
The dynamics between the four of them are easily the most compelling part of this miniseries, befitting a team coming together at long last. Banter between them as a group is great, but more interesting are how they pair off to form their own unique bonds. Luke and Danny form a budding friendship of mutual respect for each other strengths, at times a little confrontational with Luke’s more down-to-earth assertive nature reining in Danny’s thick-headed over-eagerness and ignorance. Danny’s far-flung upbringing and life of privilege contrasts well with Luke’s compassion and dedication to the less fortunate people of Harlem too. I really wasn’t fond of Danny in season one of Iron Fist, but thanks to his interactions with the team, especially Luke, I’m hopeful he will grow into a character I will enjoy.
Matt and Jessica, on the other hand, seem to form a more professional rapport, finding that they work well with one another. Though more the case with Jessica than Matt, they’re both the more aloof members of the team thanks to how they handle their troubled pasts. I think they see this in one another, and while they don’t get overly chummy, each express understanding and sympathy to the other at different points. I also adore Matt’s full blown super-heroism as Daredevil, which he helplessly gravitates toward, contrasted with Jessica’s sassy disdain for it. It tickles me that Matt is the only one on the team with an outfit.
The one thing I had trouble with in this series is The Hand, the villainous organization the Defenders must thwart. While their desires become clearer here (finally) than they ever have previously, they simply didn’t do much for me. A new leader, Alexandra (Sigourney Weaver) is introduced this season, and while I love Weaver as an actress I thought her character was fine, but nothing exceptional. There’s an intensity to Weaver that I know she’s capable of that I think would have been great for a villain, but she was instead a firm, assertive, yet soft-spoken character that didn’t affect me much. Sowande (Babs Olusanmokun), a new Hand leader we meet, has some good characterization and I still love Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), but they were more sidelined as Alexandra held the reins on their whole plan.
I understand that the organization is supposed to be far-reaching, arcane, and formidable, but I just don’t buy into it. They lacked a certain je ne sais quoi, which they had in Daredevil season two with all the mystique and body horror we were treated to there. I honestly think they lost this along the way in Iron Fist, which muddied the water for the organization’s representation in the story line. Elektra (Élodie Yung) was the one saving grace for the side of villainy, who goes through her own arc as The Black Sky, the ultimate weapon of The Hand. I still don’t know what a Black Sky is, but Elektra was great nonetheless. I was concerned her story was going to venture into very cliched waters, but it took some surprising turns that highlight her darker inclinations, which I really liked.
Though not quite a bombastic blockbuster like The Avengers film, The Defenders was a worthy miniseries that brought a great cast of characters together, tackling a villainous force appropriately over their heads, poor development notwithstanding. The villains were sadly weak for me, but the drama and development of our heroes really did overshadow this. They all played off of each other really well, and while there is friction in the group, I enjoyed that they were more sensible in finding ways to get along. I hope they will start to play supporting roles in each other’s series going forward. If you’ve been following along it’s definitely worth watching. Otherwise, I would recommend catching up a little on the previous series first.